THE PROPHET JEREMIAH: Legends, Traditions, and Their Evolution

Ronnie Goldstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter considers the legends about the prophet Jeremiah, describing their literary character, and it situates them within the compositional history of the book. It identifies three distinct editorial impulses at work within this corpus: idealization, schematization, and historization. Only a few of the texts concerning the prophet can be called proper narratives, and those grew separately from the prophecies. A possible key to understanding the history of the legends lies in the double cycle of stories about Jeremiah in the last days of Jerusalem (Jer 37: 11-40: 6). These chapters preserve two interdependent accounts, one reworking the other and transforming the prophet from human being to hero. Another important factor in the shaping of the legends was their use of narratives of earlier encounters between kings and prophets (Jeremiah 26 and 36; Jer 37: 3-10; 21: 1-10; Jeremiah 28). The so-called “Biography of Jeremiah” (Jer 37-44), for its part, is an artificial composition assembled a long time after the period of Jeremiah. This sequence was composed by a late Deuteronomistic redactor, who combined narratives about the prophet and a chronicle concerning the last days of the kingdom of Judah in order to set forth his view of the prophet’s role in history. This redactor also integrated Jeremiah 42 and 44, reinforcing the notion that the preservation of the Israelite’s covenant with YHWH depends on the returnees from Babylon. Finally, this essay examines the creation of quasi-narratives out of materials that have almost no biographical basis (Jeremiah 18-20).

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Jeremiah
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780190693060
ISBN (Print)9780190693091
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press 2021. All rights reserved.


  • Jeremiah
  • Jerusalem
  • Judean exile
  • biography
  • narrative
  • prophesy
  • tradition


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